Comics Retrospective: A look back at Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Colorful Takes on Superheroes

For this entry in our Comics Retrospective series, I wanted to dive into Loeb and Sale's magnificent takes on love and loss via three of Marvel's most... human superheroes. Using a color as an identifier for each, Loeb and Sale craft a story of Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, and Matt Murdock's relationships with Gwen Stacy, Betty Ross, and Karen Page, and how they each cope with the loss of their lovers. I won't dive too deeply into the meaning and nuance of each color, but rather give a synopsis and my overall reasoning for why these are some of the best reads Marvel has to offer.

Spider-Man: Blue

Story: Jeph Loeb, Art: Time Sale, Letters: Wes Abbott and Richard Starkings, Colors Steve Buccellato.

Hulk: Gray

Story: Jeph Loeb, Art: Tim Sale, Letters: Richard Starkings, Colors: Matt Hollingsworth.

Daredevil: Yellow

Story: Jeph Loeb, Art: Tim Sale, Letters: Richard Starkings and Wes Abbott, Colors: Matt Hollingsworth.


Hulk: Gray: Bruce Banner recounts his love and loss to his friend, Doc Samson; how he fell for Betty Ross as Bruce Banner, but also how he wanted her to know him as he was as the Hulk. Banner recalls the first time Betty meets the Hulk and her courage in the face of a monster. How he whisked her away from her father, against her wishes, and only wanting to keep her safe, made her all the more uncomfortable. It's a tragic tale of a man trying his best to be completely honest with the woman he loves, only to realize honesty is never easy.

Spider-Man: Blue: Peter Parker speaks to Gwen Stacy in a tape recorder on Valentine's Day, reminiscing about how they met, all the good times and the crazy times. The story evokes scenes from The Amazing Spider-Man #40-48 and others, and recounts how Peter lost a part of himself the day Gwen was killed.

Daredevil: Yellow: Matt Murdock tells the story of how he met and fell head over heels for Karen Page, Nelson and Murdock's super-intelligent and beautiful secretary. How he and Foggy Nelson both battled for her affection; but there's more to the story as Matt recounts his love for his father whom he also lost to murder. Can the guy catch a break? It's a story of loss for Matt as a child and as an adult, and how he copes and has persevered.

Why These Books are Good:

I can't recommend Loeb and Sale enough. They're a dynamic duo: Batman: Long Halloween and Dark Victory for DC are two of the best Bat-books in the hero's canon. Here, Loeb stirs up deep emotion in each of the three main protagonists. Although they can perform feats no normal person can, they are human deep down, even the Hulk. Of the three, Spider-Man: Blue might be the strongest. I felt a sadness reading it; the "blue" that Peter describes himself feeling on Valentine's Day. Each book utilizes its color schemes: Peter feels "blue", Banner tells his story on a stormy gray night during his Gray Hulk era, and Matt Murdock's original Daredevil costume was yellow, only to finally change to red once he could come to terms with the deaths of Karen and his father.

And Time Sale! He's not for everyone. The way he draws faces, contorted and sometimes pointy, might not be what readers are used to. But I think many would agree he's top-notch in the field. His landscapes are amazing, specifically in Daredevil: Yellow, and the way he configures each hero in scenes of battle or just jumping around are unmatched. A true legend. I feel the art is strongest in Daredevil: Yellow; Loeb gets to shine, envisioning endless rooftops and street scenes.

The colors in each are fantastic, but most prominent in Spider-Man: Blue. As they figure in each story, the colors are front and center, and all colorists involved do a superb job. Finally, the lettering is smooth and allows for an easy read.

You can find all three books on or by asking your local comic shop. If you haven't read them, you're in for a treat. If you have, read them again!

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